Is Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick's Religious Ties Impeding Texas Sports Betting?

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
Is Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick's Religious Ties Impeding Texas Sports Betting?

For so long, the future of Texas sports betting has been painted as a rather simple issue. Sure, various concerns, oppositions and agendas have prevented the legalization of sports betting in Texas for years. But the matter would be more open-ended, most believe, if not for the counter efforts of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick.

Mr. Patrick has turned his cheek at any suggested merits of legal sports gambling almost every time he’s asked or pressed about it. He isn’t shy about his disdain, either. His last election campaign was built around anti-sports-betting rhetoric. 

All the while, the force driving his opposition has remained at least somewhat unclear. “Why is he so against sports betting in The Lone Star State?” is a question met with many answers. But there is a glaring lack of definiteness in the most common responses. Lieutenant Governor Patrick has said, on numerous occasions, that legal sports betting doesn’t have the support necessary to move forward. This runs counter to a handful of polls, not to mention the Texas sports betting bill that passed through the House of Representatives before dying in the Senate earlier this year. 

Others have mused that Mr. Patrick, an ultra-conservative, simply won’t approve a sports gambling proposal engineered by the Democrats. He seemed to confirm as much after this year’s bill made it through the House. Texas is a red state,” Mr. Patrick, who oversees the Senate, wrote on Twitter at the time. “Yet the House vote on sports betting was carried by a Dem majority. The Texas Senate doesn’t pass bills [with the] GOP in the minority. The GOP majority guides our path.” 

Yet, even this line of thinking doesn’t totally explain Mr. Patrick’s logic. Republican Senator Lois Kolkhorst is among Mr. Patrick’s biggest allies. She was a primary sponsor of the sports betting bill. That initiative also received support from Republican House Rep Jeff Leach. In fact, the sports gambling bill was decidedly classified as Republican-lead in both chambers.

And so, the issue rages on. Lieutenant Governor Patrick is clearly among the biggest factors working against sports betting in Texas. But what, exactly, is the root of his opposition? At long last, we may finally have a more concrete answer: religion.

Lieutenant Governor Patick Built his Support Base on the Backs of Anti-Gambling Religious Groups

Somewhat recently, industry insiders told Legal Sports Report’s Mike Mazzeo that Mr. Patrick’s explanations for his sports betting opposition are coded. These sources claim he isn’t against gambling; he’s actually reluctant to deviate from his most ardent supporters. Here’s what Mazzeo wrote and was told:

Industry sources believe Patrick saying the Senate doesn’t want it is code for ,’I don’t want it.’ His base is composed of conservatives and religious groups that are anti-gambling. ‘He got his rise through conservative talk radio and the far religious right,’ one industry source said. “Until they tell him it’s OK, he’s not going to let it happen. It’s very much a part of his base. I think that base would view it very much as a betrayal.”

To be sure, this is just a working theory. It’s not a veritable fact. However, it would explain why Patrick is so reluctant to even consider changing his position. Ultra-conservative Texans are no doubt why he’s still in office. Endorsing a constitutional amendment that diverges from their core beliefs compromises his political standing in his current office as well as any other aspirations he might have down the line.

Of course, this all presumes the “far religious right” are vehemently against Texas sports betting. And while that was no doubt the case at one point, it turns out things may have changed.

Is the ‘Far Religious Right’ Still Opposed to Texas Sports Betting?

On more than one occasion, we have cited a 2023 study conducted by the University of Houston. That exercise found that 75 percent of those surveyed supported some form of Texas sports betting. Many even had no problem with The Lone Star State opening up the market to online sportsbooks in the United States.

The real kicker, though? That number held firm with at least one conservative religious group.

According to the University of Houston poll, roughly 70 percent of born-again Christians are okay with the idea of legal sports betting. This is significant, because born-again Christians are considered to hold some of the most conservative views of any identifying religion. And if they’re at least open to the idea of sports betting, is Mr. Patrick really attempting to carry out the wishes of his most ardent supporters?

If Lieutenant Governor Patrick’s Supporters Aren’t Guiding His Decision-Making, Then What Is? 

Good luck discerning an answer to this question. The potential reasons verge on innumerable.

Perhaps Mr. Patrick actually believes his biggest supporters don’t want sports betting. At the same time, that would represent an out-of-touch pulse, at least according to that University of Houston Poll.

Maybe Mr. Patrick really is driven by partisan politics. And to that end, maybe a Republican-driven sports betting bill isn’t enough. Perhaps he will insist that Republican Senators reach a gambling consensus before he pushes the issue. 

We won’t pretend to know the answer. Nor can we guarantee any additional light will be shed on Mr. Patrick’s sports betting stance when the next round of legislative meetings take place. 

What we do know, though, is that Texas sports betting most likely won’t move beyond a long-shot concept unless Lieutenant Governor Patrick changes his tune. Or until he vacates his current post.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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